It’s been a heady year for Leah Pritchett, driver of Don Schumacher Racing’s (DSR) Mopar/Dodge U.S. Army NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel dragster. After joining DSR as a part-timer in the 2016 season, Pritchett celebrated her first year of competition with the mega-team by posting a fifth place result in the NHRA’s 2017 overall season, punctuated by four victories in five final rounds.
In addition, she raced exhibitions against sponsor “Papa” John Schnatter in a Mopar Dodge, inevitably winning the series of competitions. She also contested two of the 2017 NHRA Factory Stock Showdown series competitions and wanted to run the full schedule in 2018.
Mopar has announced Pritchett will contest all of NHRA’s SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown seven races this year, in addition to her duties behind the wheel of DSR’s Top Fuel dragster, in which she set an unofficial 1,000-foot record with a testing lap (334.73mph) this past weekend.
Pritchett will drive a supercharged 354-cubic-inch Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in the series, the contests of which don’t begin until the third race of the Mello Yello season, in Gainesville, Fla. DSR has hired new employees to work on the Challenger, led by 2015 NHRA Stock Eliminator World Champion Kevin Helms, who will crew chief the enterprise. Helms’ experience in building, tuning and driving a Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak includes not only his championship in 2015, but runner-up finishes in NHRA’s 2017 Lucas Oil Stock and Super Stock categories.
“We’re excited that in addition to competing under the banner of the Mopar and Dodge brands in the NHRA Top Fuel class, Leah Pritchett will also carry our colors into NHRA Factory Stock Showdown competition,” said Pietro Gorlier, head of parts and service for the Mopar division of FCA. “Leah is a fierce competitor and a great brand ambassador; we look forward to cheering her on in double-duty at seven events this year.”
Pritchett, who marks her second full season racing a Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel dragster in 2018, is understandably excited by the prospect. “It is a dream come true. The double-duty aspect, I had a taste of it last year and honestly, I think it makes me a better racer overall. When we roll out in 2018, the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak will be put on the track by Don Schumacher Racing, which makes me feel fulfilled in every way. We have proven to have a very competitive racecar, and the goal,” she said, “is to be the quickest and fastest in both silos (Factory Stock and Top Fuel).”
She relishes the fact that she has a three-time World Champion Sportsman racer as her crew chief. “To have Kevin Helms is definitely an ace in my pocket and I’m just being a student of his. We have had a pretty good off-season of development,” Pritchett noted. “The test sessions we’ve had, I never experienced a crew chief who was a driver and tuner before, so the dynamic is very exciting and compelling to me. Kevin is definitely a very large asset to the program, which gives me a ton of confidence.”
Mopar is involving fans in this seven-race program, offering two Mopar and Dodge/SRT-themed livery concepts for the Challenger Pritchett will drive in competition. Both concepts, designed by motorsports lifestyle brand Hooligan, are featured on a special section of Hoonigan’s website, where fans can vote for their favorite.
To vote, fans can visit https://www.hoonigan.com/LP. Voting ends at 11:59PM ET on February 8. The winning design premiers at the first NHRA Factory Stock Showdown race during the NHRA Gatornationals, scheduled March 15-16 in Gainesville.